Friday, 30 May 2008

Chilli and curry - the same thing?

Did you know pre-packaged curry powder is just chilli with a bunch of herbs and spices chucked in? All I can think of is the hours of wasted time I’ve spent looking into the pantry pondering the important choice of, ‘should I have a chilli or a curry tonight’. Now I have to decide what Marsala, (a blend of spices), would suit the dish I’m cooking. Much harder.

This factory produced crap is making us lazy. We’re robbing ourselves of true taste experiences. A curry dish should be distinctly different from a chilli dish. If we Westerners weren’t so determined to bastardise every foreign cuisines we come across with generic concoctions, we’d appreciate the differences between the two a lot more. Chilli mixed with spices and herbs? Call it curry for the masses not ‘the authentic flavour of India’.

Try reading the labels on these pre-packaged sauces and powdered mixes sometime. You’d be better off buying the ingredients, fresh if available, and blending them to suit your own tastes. At the very least you wouldn’t be consuming all those anti-caking agents, colours and preservatives, and you just might enjoy food on a whole new level. Nobody will bother. The convenience of the pre-made usually wins.

It’s harder to accept the poor substitute after you’ve had the pleasure of eating real Indian curries made by real Indian people. (I’m not sure about those fake Indian people.) I now rate good old Keens Curry Powder and Clive of India very low by comparison. Learning how to cook with Indian spices properly takes a bit of extra time but, if decent curries are your thing, it’ll warrant tracking down the ingredients.

Despite my love of the taste of chilli I don't understand the need to overdo the heat. I like a medium bite to permeate what I’m eating. Convincing people to modulate the spices they use when they cook for me can be difficult. They must think eating chilli is supposed to feel like you’ve drunk a litre of acid. This would have to be the main reason so many people won’t touch it. They’ve had one bite of something made stupidly hot several years ago and won’t touch it again. Properly prepared chilli should add taste to the meal and should not result in a blistering ring of fire the next day either.

Putting aside the manly feats of consuming the hottest, the biggest, the most disgusting, I don't particularly like having my mouth scalded by molten fire. Neither does my wife. On a chilli scale with 10 being ‘kill me now’ and 1 being plain rice, my wife likes a 2 and I like a 5. This can cause a few arguments when the spoon goes into the jar of chilli. I’ve learned how much she will tolerate. If I’m too heavy handed I’ll be eating chilli leftovers for the next few days.

On a personal note, don't cut up Habanero chillies and then go to the toilet. I was scrubbing parts of me that only like gentle treatment. And by the way, it’s only funny if it happens to someone else, not me.

(Like it? See - Nanowrimo).

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